What is tempeh?

Tempeh is a fermented food traditionally made from soybeans.  It originated in the islands of Indonesia and is a staple of the Indonesian diet today.  Tempeh has become popular in other parts of the world because of its impressive nutritional composition, desirable firm texture, and earthy flavor.  It is very easy to cook and is a perfect high protein and fiber part of a vegetarian diet.

How it’s made

Soybeans (or other legumes) are split and boiled.  The beans are then dried and inoculated with spores of the culture Rhizopus oligosporus, which is the main active ingredient of the tempeh-making process (think of it as the yeast in breadmaking).  The inoculated beans are then incubated at around 88 degrees F for about 30 hours, or until the tempeh has become a dense white “cake.”

After the tempeh has been removed from incubation, it is frozen to preserve its active enzymes and freshness.

How does tempeh compare?

Traditional soy tempeh
22g Protein
8g Fat
Hearty texture
100% natural
Firm soy tofu
10g Protein
5g Fat
Soft mushy texture
100% natural
Vegan 'Meat'
Leading brand of ground 'beef'
18g Protein
14g Fat
Texture mimics meat
Highly processed protein isolates

Frequently asked questions about tempeh

We get asked a lot of questions about tempeh, here are some of the more common ones.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us!

How is your tempeh different from commercial tempeh?

People who claim to not like tempeh probably have only tried commercial tempeh.  Commercial tempeh lacks the delicate flavors and firm texture of our tempeh.  We allow our tempeh to get to full “ripeness” which enhances the flavor, texture, aroma, and appearance.

The way beans are dried after cooking is probably the most significant difference between factory made tempeh and traditional tempeh. The factory uses a centrifuge while the traditional shop like ours uses air to dry the beans. Air drying is slower but allows for a better drying and introduces certain beneficial bacteria that improve the quality of the final product just like with sourdough bread. It has been found that these bacteria are responsible for the B-vitamins in traditional tempeh which are absent in the commercial variety.

What are the black spots on tempeh?

When the tempeh organism (Rhizopus oligosporus, a cousin of the mushroom) reaches maturity, it produces black spores (their seeds). There is nothing wrong with this. They are an indication that the fermentation is complete. They are similar to the blue spots seen on blue cheese. Tempeh connoisseurs praise blackened tempeh for its richer flavor and subtle qualities.

How long does tempeh keep?

Tempeh will keep practically indefinitely in the freezer. In the refrigerator it will keep for about a week before it starts degrading.

An easy way to remember: 10 days in the fridge, 10 months in the freezer (hopefully you’ll eat it before then though).

What is the best way to thaw frozen tempeh?

Steaming is the best and quickest way to thaw tempeh. It also allows tempeh to be stored in the fridge longer. Leaving it to thaw over night in the refrigerator is second best. Make sure that tempeh is sealed inside a plastic bag to prevent wetness due to condensation.

How can you tell when tempeh has spoiled?

Your sense of smell is your best detector. Any unpleasant smell indicates that bacteria has invaded your tempeh. But don’t worry this bacteria is not toxic and won’t make you sick, it’s just unpleasant. In Indonesia some chefs even use a little bit of rotten tempeh (tempeh bosok) to flavor other foods.

Can tempeh be re-frozen?

Yes, but its texture will degrade a little. If the tempeh has thawed out and you cannot use it within a week then steam it. This will extend its shelf live and you won’t have to refreeze it. On the other hand, if texture is not important, like if you are going to mash it up anyway, then refreezing is not a problem.

Is your tempeh organic?

In 2007, we became the only certified organic tempeh maker in all of the southeastern United States.  We were proud of this achievement and believed in the importance of producing organic food.  In 2021, we made the difficult decision to not renew our certificate for many reasons (supply chain issues, rising costs, and overall disappointment in the institution) and we felt that the recertification process hindered our growth rather than helped.

That being said, we still adhere to the organic practices and exclusively use non-GMO beans in our products.  We still believe in the importance of producing organic food, we just feel that the certification process is unfortunately geared toward larger producers.